LEE CATTERMOLE is champing at the bit for Martin O’Neill’s maiden pre-season campaign on Wearside to get underway.
Sunderland return to training on Wednesday, July 11 with boss O’Neill set to put the Black Cats players through their paces in pre-season for the first time.
The Wearsiders face two outings in South Korea’s Peace Cup before returning home for domestic friendlies against Hartlepool United, Derby County and Leicester City.
And Cattermole is relishing the prospect of O’Neill having the time to put his stamp on the squad, rather than the former Aston Villa boss arriving when Sunderland were at their lowest ebb.
The Sunderland skipper told SportMail: “I’m looking forward to pre-season now.
“I think next season having a proper start and a pre-season where we do a lot of training and try different methods in friendlies, will make it an exciting year.
“We can look towards pre-season and I think everyone is looking forward to a proper start under the new manager with six weeks to prepare for the first game.
“We’re going to Korea which should be good.
“We’ve got a new manager and it will be really important to play some friendlies and give some of the lads an opportunity to impress him.”
Cattermole experienced the trauma of losing a manager for the first time as a professional last season after Steve Bruce was given his marching orders in November.
But O’Neill revitalised Sunderland’s fortunes, taking the Black Cats from the fringe of the relegation battle to the sanctuary of mid-table and the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.
Cattermole believes the impact O’Neill has made should give Sunderland plenty of heart in their preparations for their Premier League opener on August 18.
“Last season was full of ups and downs,” added the 24-year-old.
“It was the first season for me when we’ve lost the manager and it was two completely different halves to a season.
“Martin O’Neill came in and brought a lot of life to the place and there were a lot of positives to come out of it for next season.”
SEE Saturday’s Hartlepool Mail for full story